Should early career lawyers be trained in Business Development?

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All law firms need strong business development strategies to enable them grow, retain clients and increase revenue.

Successful law firms have a strong handle on business development, led by formidable marketing teams.  However, the real driving force behind any business development strategy should be the lawyers themselves. Business development training for lawyers gives them the tools both to identify new opportunities and to engage Clients in productive conversations.

Business development for lawyers is not just about keeping current clients satisfied, it’s also about finding ways to secure new ones.

The challenge is that few lawyers are natural salespeople. However, with the right development, all lawyers can move up the business development performance curve with training that recognises their expertise, experience and practice focus. The key to this is to start early. Understanding that you need to adopt a ‘trusted advisor mindset’ with Clients and prospective Clients is essential and is best developed at an early career stage before other approaches become firmly rooted. Networks should be established early too, and they need to be actively developed and managed.

Waiting for promotion to senior levels or partnership is too late to start trying to develop these essential client relationship management and business development skills.

Each person approaches business development in their own way, using their natural skills and personality attributes. In recent work with early career lawyers in a particular law firm, I discovered that many of the participants thought that business development meant going to conferences or drinks parties and approaching strangers. This can be an excruciating experience for many people. In fact, whilst it may form a small part of the business development process, there are many other ways of doing it that are far more effective. The critical issue is in providing early career stage lawyers and beyond with the essential competencies, confidence and behaviours essential to having ‘Context’ conversations with current and prospective clients, when the natural tendency is to want to talk ‘Content’

At Openside we work with professional services firms to help them grow more profitable business and client relationships through development of their people. Whilst we acknowledge the critical sales and profit imperative for law firm, it is not about trying to turn legal experts into salespeople. Our programmes focus on a process that we refer to as Advisory-Led Business Development – in essence business development without ‘selling’.

It is designed to provide professionals with an understanding of the context and nuances of a business development interaction and the attributes needed to make the leap from technical expert to trusted advisor.

If you’d like to know more about developing junior lawyers’ ability to exemplify professional integrity and the brand values of the Firm at all times, in winning new business and expanding client opportunities, then please get in touch, we’d love to speak with you.

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